David Blunkett condemns ‘gross injustice’ of NHS funds redistribution
Former home secretary attacks plans to shift funding away from industrialised northern areas to more prosperous southern districts with higher proportions of pensioners.
Former home secretary David Blunkett has accused the government of “sleepwalking into the most gross act of injustice” over plans to switch a greater proportion of NHS funding from deprived to more prosperous areas.
Blunkett suggests the scheme being considered by NHS England, which would see more funds diverted to areas with higher numbers of elderly people, is a crude ploy to help Tory areas before the 2015 general election.
He says the move would exacerbate the north-south divide by taking money away from industrialised areas in which people have suffered “grievously” from the nature of their work and the resulting health hazards they have faced.
Ministers insist that the decisions on future funding formulas – how NHS money is distributed according to a range of criteria such as deprivation, age and gender – have been handed over to the non-departmental body NHS England and that it will make the final judgment on proposed changes.
Health minister Dan Poulter told the Commons recently that he would “find it strange” if issues of deprivation did not remain central to those decisions.
But Labour MPs, particularly in northern constituencies, are concerned that their areas are set to lose out while more prosperous and in many cases southern areas will gain. They are furious at suggestions that there will be no weighting for levels of deprivation, or places which have poor health outcomes.
If the changes go ahead, the amount of funding for Sunderland would fall by £146 per person while in south-east Hampshire, where life expectancy is 10 years longer, it would increase by £164 per person.
Blunkett, the Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, writes: “While South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw would need to reduce spend by £149m, Thames Valley would see a growth in allocation of £148m.
“We are, in short, sleepwalking into the most gross act of injustice and reinforcement of inequality in recent times.” He says the coalition government is “about to take away tens of millions of pounds from areas currently struggling to make ends meet and to overcome historic disadvantage.
“This money will go into areas where, yes, there are more people who are retired but there are very many more people who are retired comfortably.”
Blunkett adds that “it can only be presumed that those advising David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt [the health secretary] have calculated the political gain in key constituencies in May 2015 at the general election.”
Read David Blunkett’s piece at theguardian.com